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Media Lies in Seattle

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  • Dan Clore
    Media Lies in Seattle (Lead Editorial from Alternative Press Review Spring 2000) What happened when over 40,000 protesters showed up to shut down the World
    Message 1 of 1 , May 28, 2000
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      Media Lies in Seattle
      (Lead Editorial from Alternative Press Review Spring 2000)

      What happened when over 40,000 protesters showed up to
      shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial
      conference in Seattle on November 30? Alternative media,
      for the most part, did a thoroughly detailed job of
      reporting on this major, century-closing event. But if
      you depended on the mainstream media for an explanation,
      you'd probably be one of the many people left scratching
      their heads in wonderment at such an unusual and
      unheralded turn of events. How could such a large crowd
      of crazy people who oppose international trade have
      snuck under the media radar and appeared from nowhere to
      violently sabotage a universally celebrated and admired
      group of free trade humanitarians like the WTO?

      Perhaps it's because it didn't happen that way at all.
      But then, what really did take place?

      The attempt to shut down the WTO in Seattle primarily
      grew from years of opposition to the neo-liberal
      globalization policies pursued by the US and European
      governments and major multinational corporations
      through the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World
      Bank, WEF (World Economic Forum), NAFTA (North American
      Free Trade Agreement) and the recently failed MAI
      (Multilateral Agreements on Investment).

      Thousands of groups have joined in opposition to
      neoliberal WTO policies (or to the existence of the
      WTO itself) during this time. International opposition
      includes grass-roots student, consumer, environmental
      and social welfare organizations, large parts of the
      labor movement, as well as the increasingly influential
      NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations which have
      established a voice in international debates,
      particularly within the UN). In addition, it includes
      not just these merely anti-globalization groups, but
      also explicitly anti-capitalist groups which oppose
      all corporate power -— including as a matter of course
      any plans for the globalization of that power. The
      latter, anti-capitalist groups, encompass remnants of
      the oppositional political left, as well as much of
      the international anarchist movement.

      However, the activities of this massive international
      opposition are rarely reported in the mainstream,
      corporate media. And when they are reported, they are
      persistently minimized and distorted. Instead, these
      media concentrate on pursuing a never-ending propaganda
      campaign in favor of what they misleadingly call "free
      trade," but what actually turns out on inspection to be
      international trade pursued under rules set up to
      systematically favor the interests of multinational
      corporations over all other interests.

      Thus, when an unignorable event like the successful
      shutdown of the WTO Ministerial in Seattle takes place
      despite all efforts by the corporate media to prevent
      it, they are suddenly at a loss to explain it in any
      rational fashion.

      The biggest Big Lie of the mainstream media in its
      reporting on the anti-WTO protests, however, has been
      the origin of the violence involved, a small part of
      which found representation on hundreds of millions of
      television screens and newspaper front pages.

      Almost uniformly, once the corporate mass media began
      analyzing, evaluating and re-framing the protests, the
      protesters -— and especially anarchist protesters -—
      were blamed for initiating and sustaining the Seattle
      violence.

      Earlier, on-the-spot reports -— often by these same mass
      media -— demonstrate conclusively that it was the Seattle
      police who initiated the street violence on November
      30th and continued to escalate it beyond any socially
      reasonable bounds (though obviously not beyond
      "reasonable" limits as seen by ruling powers). It was
      clearly the Seattle police (and those commanding them)
      who turned a huge, well-focused and predominantly
      nonviolent political protest into an excessively violent
      police riot. But it is unacceptable for mainstream media
      to focus on reporting the truth of this kind of brutal
      repression of non-violent protest using all sorts of the
      most advanced available riot-control weapons.

      Instead, scapegoats had to be found on which to pin
      blame for the situation. And improbable excuses were
      also needed to shift any responsibility for the
      intentionally brutal and sadistic violence inflicted by
      police (and other "security forces") on protesters,
      uninvolved Seattle residents and tourists alike.

      Thus, the Portland Oregonian reported (12/2/99) that
      "...President Clinton and some organizers of Tuesday's
      massive civil disobedience condemned the militant few,
      who dashed through the downtown business district
      smashing windows, spray-painting slogans on buildings
      and even looting a few stores as police were confronting
      the front-line protesters." (Notice that police were
      only "confronting" protesters, not gassing them with
      toxic chemicals or shooting them -— often at point-blank
      range -— with potentially lethal rubber and wooden
      bullets.)

      While the New York Times argued—in a piece titled "The
      Blame: Clenched Fists in Seattle Lead to Pointed Fingers" -—
      that "How the thin line was crossed from nonviolent protest
      to urban disorder was being dissected here Wednesday as the
      World Trade Organization got down to business. The
      conclusion: the anarchists were organized."

      And, not to be outdone, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced
      (2/24/00) that "Even march organizers who were present in
      Seattle said it was only a few protesters there—reported to
      include black-clad anarchists -— who ended up scuffling
      with police and provoking the harsh crackdown on the
      opening day that colored the whole event."

      Look at just about any corporate media account and the
      picture was all but unanimous. Because a few anarchist
      groups proceeded to smash the windows of some of the world's
      most exploitative corporations and spray-paint graffiti on
      corporate walls, they became after-the-fact the cause of the
      police riot which had started earlier! And beyond this, in
      most media accounts, the "violent" property destruction and
      graffiti of these same anarchists overshadowed all of the
      police violence aimed directly at injuring and maiming
      thousands of defenseless human beings.

      As usual, it isn't very hard to figure out which side the
      mainstream media are on. And it isn't ever ours.

      Jason McQuinn
      Tom Wheeler
      Chuck Munson
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